Open source 5 axis CNC router

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Mike Calvino is developing an open source (GPLv3) 5 axis CNC router

5 axis CNC routers in addition to 3 axis CNC routers have the ability to tilt and bend the cutting tool.


This set of instructions is to be extracted from the digital documents of a working 5 axis machine which I have just recently fabricated and is fully operational.

CNC machines are valuable tools that can enable more expressive design to be realized at more competitive prices. Whether you are a product designer, an architect, a builder, a welder, fab shop, or just about anyone who makes things or wants to make things, CNC technology is for you. This 5 axis CNC router is 10' long, 5' wide and has a Z stroke of 24". This project is to produce a set of plans & instructions from which one can build a machine. The plan set will be released as an open source document set under a GPL3 license in an attempt to place the technology into a greater number of more creative hands.

3 axis CNC machines are becoming much more commonplace and are quite simple to build/fabricate. 5 axis machines however are a little more complex, although, you'll find that they are in fact not quite that much more complex.. The intent with this set of plans is to break down this 5 axis machine into a set of drawings, parts lists & 2d cut files, supplier lists, and a set of instructions. All of this is to be released open source so that one can take the concepts and modify them if one so chooses.

As a matter of information, not all CNC CAM software can generate code for a 5 axis machine. Commercial CAM software for simultaneous 5 axis machines is very expensive. This is software which takes a digital model or drawing (3d model in the case of 5 axis) and turns it into a toolpath which the CNC machine can use to control the movement of itself to make your part. Simultaneous 5 axis CAM programs can run anywhere from $12,000 to $24,000. Some examples are MasterCam pro with Multiaxis ( ) and RhinoNC ( ).

However, there is at least one open source 5 axis CAM solution called the CNCtoolKit ( ) which is a plug-in for a popular 3d modeling program. I have a modified script version of the plug-in which works with the machine that will be described in the plan/instruction set. The modified script will be available with the plan set.

Another solution for the CAM part of the 5 axis machining may become available as a Mathematician Edmund Harriss ( ) has tentative plans to create a Grasshopper ( ) - a plug-in for Rhino3d ( ) - definition where one will be able to define a 5 axis toolpath about a 3d object and export simultaneous 5 axis g-code that the machine can utilize to machine parts. Edmund tentatively plans to have a working beta version by late spring 2011. Watch his website for more details about this.

The money raised with Kickstarter will afford me the time to take the hundreds of photos, drawings, cad files, g-code files, etc., that were created to make the custom machine and edit them all into a readable, logical set of drawings, instructions, lists, and maybe even video. This will enable the release of a complete set of open source instructions on how to build a large, production quality, 5 axis CNC router/plasma machine.

Some images of the backer rewards parts can be found here:

Most importantly, this set of instructions will show concepts about how a 5 axis CNC machine works and one solution to how it can be made. This will hopefully enable more minds to create machines utilizing the technology and enable us all to make things around us that are more expressive and more beautiful at more economical prices.